There’s no quicker way to revive a sleepy pop star than to tell her she sounds like Adele.
When we caught up with Demi Lovato, she had just come from a crack-of-dawn appearance on Good Morning America to advocate for Hurricane Harvey relief and show off her new Fabletics activewear line.
Yet, even Disney Channel veterans get tired sometimes, and beneath Lovato’s unfailingly polite demeanor, there was probably a 25-year-old who needed a nap. But she brightened at the comparison with the big-voiced British diva on her new song, You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore, a soaring highlight on her forthcoming album, Tell Me You Love Me (out Friday).
“That’s, like, the best compliment ever,” Lovato says.
Lovato’s career has been defined by her role-model status. She's a mental-health and body-positivity advocate whose “be yourself at all costs” attitude pours from her biggest hits, from Cool for the Summer’s winking sexuality to her unapologetic new single, Sorry Not Sorry.
The differences between her 2015 album, Confident, and her forthcoming release are clear in their representative titles. Written after several public breakups, including from long-time boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama, Tell Me You Love Me is a snapshot of twentysomethings’ relationships, including the sexting, friends with benefits and late-night calls so prevalent in modern dating.
“I’m single, and I’m 25 years old, and I’m living by myself, and so I wanted to write about it,” she says. “Some of the perks include not taking life, or anything, too seriously, and just having fun. And then sometimes it gets lonely."
As for the songs’ subjects, Lovato confirms that the characters and experiences in her music aren’t fiction.
“I don’t think that any of my songs are necessarily ‘made up,’” she says. “I relate to all of them through personal experiences. There are times when there are people that I write about and I don’t want it to sound too obvious, so I’ll disguise it a little bit.”
“And for the most part, my fans know what’s up,” she adds.
Considering the press’ near-obsession with Lovato’s sex-positive songwriting, lyrics like “lucky for you, I got all these daddy issues” seem designed to raise eyebrows. Lovato plans to take her soul-bearing a step further with a documentary arriving on YouTube Oct. 17 called Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated.
Spending months with a film crew wasn’t always easy for Lovato, but as she explains, she feels she owes it to her fans to be honest.
“Some of the ways that I got comfortable with the cameras is knowing in those moments when I’m being vulnerable, or when I’m opening up, I know that it’s going to help someone who may be going through the same thing I am,” she says. “So just keeping that in mind, in the back of my head, when you’re filming is important.”
While Lovato wouldn’t share more about Simply Complicated's intimate details, fans can expect the documentary to address her sexuality. After Cool for the Summerhinted at her same-sex experiences, questions about her sexual preferences became commonplace in interviews.
And while Lovato has stayed vague about how she labels her sexuality, that hasn’t stopped gossip sites from hunting down details on her love life, with paparazzi snapping her holding hands with a woman at Disneyland this month.
When a recent Huffington Post article slammed Lovato for refusing to talk about her sexuality, she clapped back on Twitter, reaffirming that her personal business is just that.
“If you're that curious about my sexuality, watch my documentary. But I don't owe anybody anything," she wrote.
Lovato has also spoken openly about her mental health struggles in the past, but it's clear that today she prefers to focus on her new charity project with Global Citizen, which fosters artistic projects for refugees.
“I’m working with Global Citizen and we’re working together to help displaced people and refugees in Iraq,” she said. “We’re working to put together an art system so that it can help them heal and use music, or whatever art form they want. Art helps people, and we’re putting together an initiative to work together to help people be able to express their emotions through art.”
After inspiring fans by speaking candidly about her mental health struggles, she hopes to similarly tackle perceptions of refugees and other displaced people.
"What I don’t think people realize is that these people have gone through so much, and they're just like us," she says. "I think it’s important to remember that they’re human, and no matter what their religion or skin color or what kind of person they are, they're human and it’s important that we do whatever we can to help them."